A few weeks ago I came home from the grocery store excited from the cool produce my kids had picked out, like this stalk of Brussels Spouts. I posted on Facebook and a lot of friends were curious whether the kids would eat them. It inspired to think of some of the tricks I have used over years to get my kids to eat vegetables. Here are my top five.
1) Help them understand why they are good, specifically. My son cracked me up a few months ago when he came in from climbing on the monkey bars and was rooting through the fridge. “Help me mommy,” he said, “I’m looking for something to eat to help me climb more monkey bars.” Saying something is healthy might not have much meaning for young kids, but they may be interested to hear what is good for building muscles to climb trees, or strong bones so they can be tall enough to ride the roller coaster, or something to boost their immune system so they don’t get sick,
2) Family Rule- You Must Try It. All I require is one bite. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard the kids say they DON’T like something, remind them of our family rule to try it, and have it turn out that they LOVE it. This is not a one time thing. No matter how many times it is served they have to try it that meal. Their tastes can change or I could have prepared it differently.
3) Let them get involved. Let them pick out vegetables at the store, or help wash or cook them at home. In my house I have the kids work in the garden with me. I remember as a child going out to my parent’s garden to “get dinner.” This lets kids feel like they had a choice in their meals.
4) Skip the snacks. It is self evident that kids eat better when they come to the table a little hungry. I struggle with this one all the time. My oldest gets off the bus and eats a snack because he is starving. I serve an early dinner because we have soccer/dance/cub scouts/etc but now he is not hungry. It is important to manage the snack to meal ratio.
5) Cook it with a chicken. I guess smothering it in cheese would work too. Vegetables are healthiest in their rawest purest forms, but they have to be eaten to be of nutritional value. This is what we did with the Brussels Sprouts. Guess what? The kids ate them. Even little baby JP.